Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From Whence Doth the Creative Spark Ignite?

How do you like the title to this post? A bit of mirth to start my pondering words about an extremely complicated question:  What ignites the creative spark?
Over my lifetime, I have puzzled over this question. Oh, and 'what is the meaning of life' and 'what is my purpose' and 'what is death'? You know, the small stuff.
I have heard many answers to "what ignites the creative spark"  from 'the creative drive being likened to giving birth' to 'creative people must create', or, rather, it is an inherent trait that cannot be nurtured, presented, gifted, or taken away - it simply is.
Let us not forget that "necessity if the mother of invention". 
Another popular answer to the query - and one that cannot be denied categorically - is that creative people are often at their most prolific when moving through one of life's inevitable dark events.
Do misery and suffering spark creativity?
So many well-known artists have had dreadful, hideous lives strewn with hardship.
Perhaps enduring hardship promotes artistic expression of the soul's anguish that cannot be expressed in other ways?
I will probably never know the answer to my question, although I am certain that whatever gives rise to creativity is of infinite complexity, varying from individual to individual.
It is here in my musing that I am reminded of Eva Hesse, one of my personal favorites artists of-all-time and a woman that I admire beyond the words on this page.
After emigrating from Nazi Germany to the Netherlands and then New York, Eva Hesse studied at Cooper Union and Pratt Institute, eventually earning a BFA in painting from Yale School of Art and Architecture under Josef Albers. The year was 1959.
Soon thereafter, Eva Hesse started a small revolution by recycling materials and evolving the two dimensional painting canvas into a three dimensional sculpture. 

Eva Hesse ca 1959 (Stehen Korbet)
My well-worn book, Eva Hesse by Lucy Lippard, is inscribed with the date of July, 1978. I purchased it at a Soho bookstore during a summer spent in NY.  It is one of the few books that I still keep on my shelf.
Many art historians like to refer to Eva Hesse in terms of her hardships. I like to refer to Eva Hesse in terms of her strength, perseverance and accomplishments.
Born in 1936, Eva escaped Nazi Germany, watched her parents divorce, struggled with depression and a failed marriage, the suicide of her mother, the death of her father and her subsequent loss of life in 1970 due to a brain tumor.
Is it in spite of Eva's pain that she thrived in the male-dominated art world, becoming one of the torchbearers of Post Minimalism? Or, did her star rise because of her personal hardships?
Having been fortunate enough to see several of her works and posthumous exhibits, I can verify that Eva's work is spectacular. There is a light in her fiberglass pieces that positively emanates from within and without, dancing through the sculpture, becoming part of the whole.

Right After (1969)
Eva Hesse is famous for her use of materials that are intrinsically worthless - recycled electrical wire and masonite. Alchemy at its finest! 
One of my favorite pieces is entitled Hang Up (1966). Witty and charming, the piece is primarily composed of  acrylic on cord, cloth, wood, steel.

Hang Up (1966)

Later, Eva's trademark media became latex, plastic, fiberglass. These materials disintegrate over time ... and there is poetry and metaphor  in that process.

Repetition Nineteen III (1968)

I remember a comment about Lippard's Eva Hesse made by a painter friend many years ago - "Every woman in the grad program at art school had that book".
One of the dirty little secrets of the art world, in my opinion, is that it is one of the last bastions of male dominance.
In the real world, racial discrimination is at least talked about. This gives hope that the world is taking a step towards resolution.
Alas, in the art world, gender bias seems to still be the modus operandi....which simply leaves me more in awe of Eva Hesse and her numerous accomplishments.
What constellations came together that allowed the world to behold (even for a short time) such talent, beauty and grace?
In Love, Truth and Beauty .....

for more information on Eva Hesse, please visit evahesse.com and thejewishmuseumofart.org.
a search of "Eva Hesse" will yield additional images of work 
Images herein are reproduced from the Estate of Eva Hesse
Thank you